The Trump administration is mulling several plans to cut back on the number of refugees allowed in the United States, according to the New York Times, citing anonymous sources.
One plan would cut refugee admissions by half or more, down to 10,000 - 15,000 people - and would only allow people from "a few handpicked countries or groups with special status, such as Iraqis and Afghans who work alongside American troops, diplomats and intelligence operatives abroad."
Another idea is to cancel the program altogether unless the president chooses to admit refugees in an emergency.
Both options would all but end the United States’ status as one of the leading places accepting refugees from around the world.
The issue is expected to come to a head on Tuesday, when the White House plans to convene a high-level meeting in the Situation Room to discuss at what number Mr. Trump should set the annual, presidentially determined ceiling on refugee admissions for the coming year. -New York Times
"At a time when the number of refugees is at the highest level in recorded history, the United States has abandoned world leadership in resettling vulnerable people in need of protection," said Refugees International president, Eric Schwartz. "The result is a world that is less compassionate and less able to deal with future humanitarian challenges."
The Times singles out top Trump adviser Stephen Miller for using his "considerable influence in the West Wing to reduce the refugee ceiling to its lowest levels in history," by capping the program at 30,000 admits per year; a 70% reduction from the day Trump took office.
A key admin official who will largely influence the decision is newly minted Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, according to the report.
The senior military leadership at the Defense Department has been urgently pressing Mr. Esper to follow his predecessor’s example and be an advocate for the refugee program, according to people familiar with the conversation in the Pentagon.
But current and former senior military officials said the defense secretary had not disclosed to them whether he would fight for higher refugee admissions at the White House meeting next week. One former general described Mr. Esper as in a “foxhole defilade” position, a military term for the infantry’s effort to remain shielded or concealed from enemy fire. -New York Times
On Wednesday, a group of distinguished retired military officials wrote a letter to Trump, imploring him to reconsider the cuts - calling the refugee program a "critical lifeline" to those helping US troops, diplomats and intelligence officials conducting overseas operations.
"We urge you to protect this vital program and ensure that the refugee admissions goal is robust, in line with decades-long precedent, and commensurate with today’s urgent global needs," reads the letter whose signatories include Admiral William H. McRaven, the former commander of United States Special Operations; General Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Lt. General Mark P. Hertling, the former commanding general of Army forces in Europe.